Feeds

DNS gaffe leaves spy agency totally under cover

Big website knickers round ankles

Top three mobile application threats

The unavailability of the US National Security Agency website on Thursday has been linked to misconfigured DNS (Domain Name System) servers.

Surfers were unable to reach NSA.gov from about 0700 on Thursday because systems used to translate web addresses humans understand to machine-readable IP addresses were playing up, according to an analysis by Arbor Networks.

Danny McPherson, chief research officer with Arbor Networks, explains in detail how the signal intelligence agency's two authoritative DNS servers were temporarily unreachable. The same problem would (potentially) affect MX records and therefore email delivery.

The DNS servers might have been left unreachable for a variety of reasons ranging from router or network misconfiguration to server failure, network outage and response to hostile attack, in decreasing order of probability.

It's unclear what caused the outage, but McPherson's analysis provides evidence that the spy agency made a brace of elementary mistakes with in configuring its DNS systems. For one thing, a web server was run on the same machine (or at least same IP address) as one of the authoritative name server for nsa.gov. Secondly the primary and secondary authoritative name servers are both downstream from the same Qwest edge access router in Washington DC, instead of being properly separated.

YouTube recently experienced availability glitches due to similar problems in the second category, McPherson notes. Failure on YouTube's part to apply industry best practise for running its DNS system left it intermittently difficult to watch the Star Wars kid, and similar video gems. The temporary nonavailability of the NSA website is a whole lot more serious.

And since the agency is charged with advising US firms how to safeguard their internet infrastructures, as well as actively attempting to break into the systems of intelligence targets, it's only right that the NSA is held to far higher standards than YouTube.

NSA techies have now restored the site, but everyone involved in the outage should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo: Turn your phone into a 72GB beast
USB-usiness in the front, micro-USB party in the back
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
BOFH: Oh DO tell us what you think. *CLICK*
$%%&amp Oh dear, we've been cut *CLICK* Well hello *CLICK* You're breaking up...
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.